Seven years ago I went intothe High Sierras stunned by the desireto die. For hours I stared into a clearmountain stream that fell downover speckled rocks, and then Iclosed my eyes and prayed that whenI opened them I would be goneand somewhere a purple and goldenthistle would overflow with light.I had not prayed since I was a childand at first I felt foolish sayingthe name of God, and then it becameanother word. All the whileI could hear the water's chantbelow my voice. At last I openedmy eyes to the same place, my handscupped and I drank long fromthe stream, and then turned for homenot even stopping to find the thistlethat blazed by my path.Since thenI have gone home to the cityof my birth and found it gone,a gray and treeless one now in its place.The one house I loved the mostsimply missing in a row of houses,the park where I napped on summer daysfenced and locked, the great shopwhere we forged, a plane of rubble,the old hurt faces turned away.My brother was with me, thickenedby the years, but still my brother,and when we embraced I felt the roughcheek and his hand upon my back tappingas though to tell me, I know! I know!brother, I know!Here in Californiaa new day begins. Full dull clouds ridein from the sea, and this dry valleycalls out for rain. My brother hasrisen hours ago and hobbled to the showerand gone out into the city of deathto trade his life for nothing becausethis is the world. I could pray now,but not to die, for that will come oneday or another. I could pray forhis bad leg or my son John whose luckis rotten, or for four new teeth, butinstead I watch my eucalyptus,the giant in my front yard, buckingand swaying in the wind and hear itstidal roar. In the strange new lightthe leaves overflow purple and gold,and a fiery dust showers into the day.
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